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9th NASS: Fresh twist as court orders open ballot

By Henry Umoru, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Omeiza Ajayi & Dirisu Yakubu

We’re still talking to Ndume, says Oshiomhole
APC, Gbajabiamila’s camp procure credit card for members
Members frown at publishing of names for endorsement
Say separation of powers must be maintained
Intrigues, as Lawan, Ndume square up today

ABUJA — Ahead of tomorrow’s inauguration of the ninth National Assembly, governors of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, as well as the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, yesterday met with the APC caucus of the incoming National Assembly.

Former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekeremadu (R) led by the Sergeant at Arms carrying a new Mace after plenary at the 8th National Assembly in Abuja on Wednesday (18/4/18).

The meeting which had several of the governors in attendance, was to finalize arrangements regarding its zoning of principal offices in the national assembly and ensure that lawmakers elected on the party’s platform vote as directed.

However, some of the aspirants who have vowed to pursue their ambitions in defiance of party directives were conspicuously absent from the meeting.

Among those who were absent were Sen. Ali Ndume who is squaring up against the party’s choice, Sen. Ahmed Lawan for the office of the Senate president; Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu who is also against Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege for the deputy presidency of the Senate and Umar Mohammed Bago who is vying for speaker, House of Representatives, against the party’s favoured candidate, Femi Gbajabiamila.

Also absent were Sen. Danjuma Goje who had earlier stepped down for Lawan, as well as Sen. Francis Alimikhena who is also contesting against Sen. Omo-Agege.

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Speaking with journalists at the end of the meeting, National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, said the meeting was “basically to firm up all the conversations and lobbying that have gone on and we have already had a meeting with specific conclusions.”

9th Senate Leadership: As Omo-Agege takes the centre stage(Opens in a new browser tab)

While he restated the decision of the party to support Sen. Lawan and Gbajabiamila for the office of Senate president and House speaker respectively, he said the party would also support Sen. Omo-Agege and Idris Wase as deputies for both positions.

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“We have all agreed as a caucus to endorse distinguished Sen. Ahmed Lawan as APC candidate for the presidency of the senate and distinguished Sen. Omo-Agege for the deputy presidency of the senate.

“All those that have stepped down as a mark of respect for the party leadership are all qualified and they are all unanimous to back the candidates of the party,” said Oshiomhole.

Still talking to Ndume

Oshiomhole added that the party was still trying to get Sen. Ndume to jettison his ambition and accept the position of the party.

“Well, for now we are still trying to talk to Ali Ndume. I believe that he is a democrat. He understands that in a democracy, it is important that he listens to the voice of the majority and accept the decisions of the majority.

‘’I mean it is all about sacrifice. Like I said, I do not know of anybody who has been elected who is not qualified to become the Senate President, and senators are equal.

‘’For those who have stepped down, they have done that in recognition of the fact that at a particular point in time, only one person will emerge and I believe that my dear friend, Sen. Ali Ndume, will not be a lone ranger.

‘’He will abide by the spirit of the party and respect our overall leader who is the president of our country, who is also the leader of our party. I do not have any fear, I believe Ndume will accept the will of the majority,” he stated.

At the moment, no fewer than 99 senators-elect have signed and endorsed the Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan as the next Senate President.

Of the 99 senators- elect, 60 are from the All Progressives Congress, APC; 38 from the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, while the Young Progressive Party, YPP, has one senator- elect.

Addressing journalists on Saturday at Transcorp   Hilton Hotel, Abuja, Secretary of the Lawan Campaign Organization, Senator Barau Jibrin, APC, Kano North, said of 62 senators-elect of the ruling APC, 60 have signed on to the “Lawan Project”, while a senator-elect of the Young Peoples Party YPP, Ifeanyi Uba, has also declared support.

In his remarks at the event, Senator Lawan assured his supporters that of the 44 Senators-elect of the opposition PDP,  no fewer than 38 have also declared their support for his aspiration for the position   of Senate President in the 9th Senate.

With the signed list of APC Senators- elect which has a total number of 62, only two did not sign and they are the former Senate Leader and a contender for the position of Senate President, Senator Ali Ndume, APC, Borno South and Mohammed Ibrahim Bomai from Yobe, same state as Senator Lawan.

Ahead of today’s election, governors-elected on the platform of  Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the senators-elect were last night, engaged in strategic meetings to take a position.

The first meeting was at Rivers State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro, while the second one took place at the residence of Deputy Senate President in the Eight Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

Speaking on the position of PDP, the Deputy Minority Leader in the Eight Senate, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha,Taraba, said: “There is dignity in silence, and there is mischief in noise-making. So, we maintain a dignified silence because we want a 9th Assembly that will be rancour-free. We speak as a family, friends, that is our tradition; we speak as a family, we are not divided.”

Boroffice withdraws

Meanwhile, a contender for the position of Deputy Senate President, Senator Robert Ajayi Boroffice ( APC Ondo North), has withdrawn from the race in deference to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Boroffice’s withdrawal from the race was sequel to adoption of the candidature of Senator Ovie   Omo-Agege ( APC Delta Central) by the national leadership of the APC on Sunday .

While Borrofice has withdrawn, strong indications emerged yesterday that all odds are in favour of the Deputy Chief Whip in the Eight Senate, Senator Francis Alimikhena, APC, Edo North, for the position of Deputy Senate President.  He vowed yesterday never to step down.

Some senators have said they would not cast their votes for Omo- Agege, though the party has endorsed him, following the invasion of the hallowed Chamber last year by hoodlums who went away with the Mace, the symbol of authority of the Senate.

The hoodlums were alleged to have been sent by him to storm the Chamber during plenary.

According to a ranking senator of the APC who spoke with Vanguard, “ voting for Omo- Agege for the position of Deputy Senate President would amount to compensating someone who rubbished the parliament with such a position. “

Another senator from the PDP said:  “When we get there, we will know what to do, not for Omo- Agege.”

Other contenders in the race, such as Senators Kabiru Gaya ( APC Kano South) and Orji Uzor Kalu (APC   Abia North) vowed to participate in the election today.

In a statement yesterday in Abuja by his press Secretary, Kayode Fakuyi, Boroffice said his withdrawal from the race for Deputy President of the 9th Senate was purely in deference to President Buhari and   leadership of the APC.

The statement read:  “Some weeks ago, Distinguished Senator (Prof.) Robert Ajayi Boroffice, declared intention, through letters addressed to senators-elect, to seek the office of Deputy Senate President.

“The intention to contest was anchored on the deep conviction that with his excellent public service record, rich legislative experience and personality, he has the best credentials for the position.

“However, in deference to President Buhari and the APC, Senator Robert Ajayi Boroffice has decided to withdraw from the race.’’

 Gaya, Kalu fight on

On his part, Senator- elect, Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano South), while speaking with journalists yesterday said he would contest the election on the floor today

According to Gaya, despite the endorsement of Senator Ovie Omo-Agege by the APC leadership, his chances of emerging DSP was very bright.

“This is not my first time of contesting election. Tomorrow (today) will make it the fourth time and by the grace of God, it will be peaceful.

“I’m still in the race. I will contest with whoever that would also contest the position of the DSP tomorrow (today). Democracy is actually a game of numbers. Whoever has the highest number would win,” he said.

On his part, Senator-elect, Orji Uzor Kalu (APC, Abia North), noted that President Muhammadu Buhari has not adopted any candidate for the position of Deputy Senate President.

He, however, debunked insinuations that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), after wide consultations with President Muhammadu Buhari and other stakeholders of the party,  formally endorsed Senator Ovie Omo-Agege as the party’s candidate for the position of Deputy Senate President in the 9th National Assembly.

In a statement yesterday in Abuja  signed by his media aide, Ken Cole, the former governor stressed that as a staunch supporter of President Buhari and a loyal and committed member of the APC, he (Kalu) would always abide by the decisions of the President and highly respected members of the National Working Committee, NWC.

According to him, speculation of the formal endorsement of Omo-Agege was the handiwork of selfish elements in the party who ware self-serving and desperate to cause disharmony among party stakeholders.

Kalu said: “Ahead of tomorrow’s inauguration of the 9th National Assembly and election of principal officers, politicians have started deploying different antics to satisfy their ambitions.

“One of such is a statement credited to National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu claiming that President Muhammadu Buhari and the NWC of the party have formally adopted Senator Ovie Omo-Agege as the party’s candidate for the position of Deputy Senate President.

“I hold the President in high esteem as well as the National Chairman of our great party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and other members of the NWC and as such, I will not disobey any formal pronouncement by them.

“However, I am still in the race to become Deputy Senate President because the President and the NWC have not adopted any candidate and as such the contest is open to all members of the party, who have the capability.”

Also speaking on the unfolding scenario, Senator Ibrahim Gobir said: “Iam worried about the election of today because what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong.

“What is right is that the person we are going to choose, we will choose tomorrow (today). When we get to the bridge, we will cross it. Certainly, what the President wants is Lawan, and I’m going for Lawan.

“On the Deputy President of the Senate, that one is left to me, I think I’m going to make my decision.

“The voting pattern is provided in our standing rules; so I don’t think  there will be any problem. We are going to make use of the 2015 Standing Rules. You can understand that senators can always adjust their procedures.

“The silence from the PDP senators-elect means acceptance; I don’t think that is going to be any problem. So, I am not afraid because once somebody is silent, it means he has accepted the norm, and the norm is what APC wants. That is why you can see me very excited because there is no problem.”

In a related development, former members of the House of Representatives   said that they were backing Mohammed Bago from Niger State for the position of Speaker, House of Representatives because of his integrity and goodwill.

Speaking to journalists in Abuja,a former member, House of Representatives, Kamil Akinlabi Mudashiru (Afijio/Oyo-East/Oyo-West/Atiba) in the 6th and 7th Assembly, said he had worked with Bago and trusts that he could effectively lead the 9th House of Representatives.

‘Why I stepped down for Gbajabiamila’

Meanwhile, member-elect for Isuikwato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Nkeiru Onyejeocha, has explained her decision to step down for Gbajabiamila, saying it was after wise consultations with different strata of the Nigerian society.

“I must also say that this historical decision to review my position and step down for the party’s choice in the person of Femi Gbajabiamila was after another round of consultations and appeals from prominent Nigerians, lawmakers-elect, women groups and members of my immediate constituency in the South-East. It has not come lightly..

“I have no personal disagreement whatsoever with Femi Gbajabiamila, and I had from day one acknowledged his competence, capacity and experience to lead the House as our Speaker. However, as a representative and honourable lawmaker like him, I have a duty first, to my people and also to my lovely constituencies.

“But as a woman of knowledge and wisdom, I also understand when it is apt to work for the greater good of the country and my party.

“I have, therefore, asked my friends and supporters — distinguished lawmakers — who have backed my aspiration from day one, to give Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila their votes come June 11, 2019, so that we can build a new legislative harmony and friendship for the common good of Nigerians.

“Let me also ask other fellow contestants to sheathe their swords, put the past behind us and join in this overwhelming adoption of “Leader” as the sole candidate when we resume a new legislative agenda.

“I am, therefore, stepping down with a greater hope based on assurances from my party leaders and colleagues, that in the leadership and management of the House of Representatives in the 9th Legislative Session, the interest and voice of my constituencies – South East and women in Nigeria – will be carried along, fully recognised and effectively reintegrated.

“I have confidence in this assurances and also that my campaign has further sensitised my party to the imperative of inclusion of the South East and women in the governance of the country in the next four years,” she added.

Credit card voting

Meanwhile, strong indications have emerged that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the political camp of its adopted candidate for the position of speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, have allegedly procured credit cards for their supporters to ensure victory.

This is coming barely 12 hours to the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly.

The inauguration comes with the   election of the President of the Senate and speaker of the House of Representatives with their respective deputies.

The procurement of the cards is a follow-up to the issuance of green cards to the new members-elect to track votes.

Investigations yesterday, revealed that the cards have been given to over one hundred members across party lines.

Specifically, the card is a promissory credit note to members who had agreed to pencil down the serial number of their ballot paper on the green card.

Seen as a proof, the plan is that any member whose serial number had been confirmed to have voted for Gbajabiamila would receive instant financial alert to their individual bank accounts after activating the card.

It was further learned that with the number, every individual voters can be traced and identified either for reward or sanction by the party.

At the moment, the APC has a total of 119 new members-elect, with the North-West leading the table with 39 members, while the South-West follows closely with 33.

Others are the North-Central with 22, South-South, 6 leaving the South-East to bring up the rear with just one new member-elect.

It will be recalled that most national dailies of Monday, June 10, 2019 were awash with signatures and endorsements for Gbajabiamila.

A source who spoke in confidence, however, stated that the members are kicking against the development, saying the idea won’t fly.

Similarly, most of the members, it was learned have expressed shock and worry that their names were published in newspapers without their consent.

The source said that the mere attendance of a meeting does not translate to automatic endorsement of a particular candidate.

Why Senator OVie Omo-Agege should be the next deputy senate president(Opens in a new browser tab)

The source, who described the   development as an act of desperation, stated that it was untidy, petty and unhealthy for many members-elect.

9th Senate Leadership: As Omo-Agege takes the centre stage(Opens in a new browser tab)

 


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.